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More on virtual library cards...

In February, I wrote a post about "scanning a smartphone as a library card."  A recent article in Library Journal discusses library cards on smart phones and library policy, mentioning that some libraries have revised their policies to make it clear they accept these as valid cards.  With the rise in popularity of apps like CardStar and Key Ring, what will your library's response be if presented with a virtual card--- will you accept it?  is it important that your scanners can scan it?

If your library chooses to honor virtual cards, you might wonder, "How can LINKcat library cards be entered into CardStar?"

  • "+" to add a card
  • Select merchant   (I had no luck with the "scan a barcode" option)
  • Library
  • Scroll down to the bottom (our libraries aren't currently listed) to select "(Other Library)"
  • Enter appropriate info
    • Membership Number (= library card number)
    • Card Title
    • Barcode Symbology
      • Codabar
      • Start Code:  A
      • End Code:  B

If you wish to have your library entered in the list of libraries, you must register with CardStar (I'm guessing that when you do this, you can specify your barcode type so that patrons never have to know the barcode symbology if they select your library). See "How do I get my merchant card added to CardStar's database?" on this "Merchant Support" FAQ.

Remember - our current metrologic laser scanners won't scan from smartphones. If your library is interested in scanning barcodes from smartphones for patrons, you'll need a CCD scanner (see Andrew's post for more info). If you don't wish to invest in a CCD scanner, you can manually type in the barcode.


Here are some libraries that not only honor virtual cards, but are promoting use of their library cards with smartphones!

What do you think?  Is a virtual library card a risk?  Or is it an opportunity to encourage library use?


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I think it's definitely an opportunity, but I have some questions. We have always insisted that there can only be one physical card per account and stressed to patrons that they need to keep track of where their card is, and report lost cards to prevent unauthorized use. Wouldn't it be (theoretically) pretty easy to get ahold of someone else's card number and use it to check out without the patron even knowing it was being used by someone else?

A library card is really more like a credit card than a loyalty card. You get to "buy" stuff with it; you just don't ever get a bill as long as you return the merchandise within a certain time. There's no financial harm to you if someone else uses your Copp's card, but you can't say the same thing for your library card. And as far as I know, there aren't brick and mortar stores where you can walk in and just tell them your credit card number, or flash your smartphone app and be able to buy anything.

Not to say that it isn't something we'll eventually need to deal with, but I'd personally be a little wary until there's an app that treats your library card more like a credit card.

Good points, Kathy!

Is there anything that a library could put in place to allow the use of virtual cards but eliminate some of the risk? could the patron verify the last 4 digits of their phone or confirm their PIN? What if there were a photo of the patron associated with their library record (like some gyms do)?

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